How to deface a pretty Mac

An important part of our anti-theft measures is defacing computers so that a thief would have a hard time fencing them. Why steal something you can't sell?

Permanent marker is easily removed with the right solvent. Vibrating engraving tools seem like a bad idea. Those and abrading tools like a Dremmel produce messy results, unless you happen to be very skilled. On plastic cases I have used a soldering iron (but it also looks bad).

So I bought an Etch-O-Matic (really). In a dark closet I made a little "Zoology UBC" mask to electro-chemically etch that into our shiney iMacs and MacBooks. Works *beautifully* on a test aluminum plate. I was psyched. But on the "aluminum" Macs it leaves no mark whatsoever. So they are some weird alloy, or coated, or anodized. Whatever they are, they conduct no electricity, so the electro-chemical idea is useless.

I found that Easy Off oven cleaner can do some damage. Great! Following is a process that works. The resulting mark cannot be removed, and it's not so contrasty that it's a distraction while you're actually using the computer.

Oven cleaner is nasty. Unless you take responsibility for both yourself and your equipment, don't try this.


Think of a nice mark, and get some "paint mask stencils" made. I got mine from Signmaster (604-874-2722). Line it up and stick it on the equipment.


Put the oven cleaner in a safely manageable container and carefully dab it on all the holes in the stencil. Keep it away from the outer edges of the stencil.


Sit back and watch the tiny little bubbles for 3-5 minutes.


Very carefully remove as much of the oven cleaner as possible, keeping it away from the outer edges of the stencil, where you don't want any accidental etching.


Use vinegar to rinse all the places that had oven cleaner. Do it a few times. This is to neutralize it so you don't shove any around in the process of removing the stencil.


Pull off the stencil and its little bits.


Rinse it with water so everything is nice and clean. You're done.